Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Viennese Kitchen: Lachsfleckerln (Baked Noodles with Salmon)

Sooo....tuna noodle casserole, Vienna-style?  You've got me.  I didn't know they made things like this in Austria.  I thought it was all beef and pork and noodles and desserts that make you want to skip dinner.  But I'm open-minded.  I'll give a Viennese salmon noodle casserole a try.  Here's what I think: it's too dry and it needs some green like I need to stop making bad casserole recipes.

Lachsfleckerln (Baked Noodles with Salmon)
From The Viennese Kitchen by Monica Meehan and Maria von Baich

Butter, for greasing
1½ tablespoons fine breadcrumbs
7 ounces extra-broad egg noodles (or Fleckerln if available)
¾ pound poached boned salmon
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 large eggs, separated
½ cup sour cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch square baking dish with butter and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs, then tip out the excess breadcrumbs.

Break the noodles in half and boil in salted water for 7-10 minutes, until al dente, then drain. In the meantime, coarsely chop the salmon in a food processor and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy, then add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Stir in the sour cream and the salmon. Season with salt and pepper.

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks.  Mix the noodles into the creamed mixture and fold in the egg whites. Transfer to the baking dish and bake for 35-40 minutes. Serve with a green salad.

Note: Square egg noodles (or Fleckerln) can be purchased in kosher delicatessens. Otherwise, standard egg noodles are a fine substitute.

Makes 4 servings

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Saveur: Chocolate Cream Pie

When my mom said my dad wanted a chocolate cream pie for Father's Day, I wasn't sure what exactly to make for him.  I knew he probably technically wanted this elusive strawberry pie that I swear only exists in his mind (plain crust, pastry cream, sliced strawberries, whipped cream topping), but would settle for a good slice of chocolate cream.  This is basically the scenario at every homey restaurant we ever visit.  Looks for strawberry, settles for chocolate.  Well, I didn't want him to settle.  I wanted him to love that darn pie.  So of course I had to find the most over-the-top obnoxious chocolate cream pie ever.  And boy, did I pick well.

The recipe originally comes from Saveur magazine, but I found it on their website after googling "best chocolate pie ever".  Seriously.  It's that good.  How could it not be after a chocolate cookie crust, two sticks of butter, and 11 ounces of Ghirardelli chocolate?  I mean...that's just plain sinful.  Oh, and a foamy halo of thick whipped cream on top.  Gah.  Don't even want to imagine what kind of caloric damage this monster can do.  But it really does live up to its name.  It's thick, rich, satiny, and yes, the best damn chocolate pie I've ever tasted.  I'm not 100% in love with the crust, as it tends to turn into a chocolate brick after a trip to the oven, but that's a simple fix.  The chocolate pudding is perfection.

Chocolate Cream Pie
From Saveur magazine, March 2010

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½
-inch cubes and chilled, plus more for pie plate
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
1 (9-ounce) package chocolate wafers,
 such as Nabisco, finely ground
 (about 2¼ cups)
3½ cups half-and-half
 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
9 egg yolks
9 ounces semisweet chocolate,
 finely chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate,
 finely chopped
2½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
Dark chocolate, for garnish

Heat oven to 375°. Grease bottom and sides of a 9-inch glass pie plate with butter; set aside. Heat 8 tablespoons butter and brown sugar in a 1-quart saucepan until sugar dissolves. Transfer butter mixture to a medium bowl; stir in ground wafers. Transfer mixture to pie plate; press into bottom and sides, using the bottom of a measuring cup to compress crust. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Bake until set, about 15 minutes; let cool.

Heat half-and-half in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat until it just begins to simmer; remove pan from heat. In a large bowl, whisk together  cup sugar and cornstarch; add egg yolks and whisk until smooth. Drizzle half-and-half into egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly, until smooth. Return mixture to saucepan; heat over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until bubbles rise to the surface and mixture is very thick, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat and add remaining butter and chocolates in small batches, whisking until smooth; stir in 1½ teaspoons vanilla. Set a sieve over a medium bowl and strain chocolate mixture. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing plastic onto surface; refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.

Remove plastic wrap from chocolate filling and, using a rubber spatula, stir mixture until smooth. Spoon mixture into reserved crust, forming a dome, and smooth surface with the spatula. In a large bowl, whisk remaining sugar, remaining vanilla, and heavy cream until stiff peaks form; spread on top of filling, forming a dome. Using a peeler, shave some of the dark chocolate onto top of pie. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Makes 8 to 12 servings

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Gourmet: Spaghetti Squash with Moroccan Spices

I'm trying to be healthier about what I eat.  After so many years of just indulging where I wanted and when I wanted, I'm having to pay the price with restrictions and exercise.  But that doesn't mean that everything I eat has to taste like used-up cardboard.  It's still possible to have something delicious that doesn't have 1,000 calories and make your arteries scream for mercy.

I'm not sure where the idea for cooking a spaghetti squash came from.  I remember my mom getting some dish at Pappadeaux that had spaghetti squash as a side, and it always seemed tasty to me.  I figured it couldn't have too many calories in it, and it probably has a whole lot more nutrition than a french fry.  So, I searched the internet for something that sounded promising (and hopefully didn't involve spaghetti sauce), and what I came up with is a recipe from Gourmet magazine.  I actually saw it first on Smitten Kitchen, but I went back to the original source to double check for alterations.

The squash was really easy to cook in the microwave, even if at one point it sounded like it had exploded despite my preventative knife pricks.  I only used a 2 pound squash, and it took about 12 minutes on high in my microwave.  Then I mixed up the butter sauce and dumped everything together in a bowl.  Dinner doesn't get any easier than that.

The spice level is good, I think, unless you're a bit jaded by too much fast food.  If so, you might need to fiddle with the amount of cumin and ground coriander.  I think the cayenne adds some needed heat, and the cilantro adds freshness.  And you just feel so....healthy eating it, even though it's smeared in butter.  Only 180 calories per serving, assuming you get about 7 cups of squash from the cooked (4-pound) shell.

Spaghetti Squash with Moroccan Spices
From Smitten Kitchen blog and Gourmet magazine, February 2002

1 (3½- to 4-pound) spaghetti squash
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
 teaspoon cayenne
¾ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Pierce squash (about an inch deep) all over with a small sharp knife to prevent bursting. Cook in an 800-watt microwave oven on high power (100 percent) for 6 to 7 minutes. Turn squash over and microwave until squash feels slightly soft when pressed, 8 to 10 minutes more. Cool squash for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over moderately high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute. Stir in spices and salt and remove from heat.

Carefully halve squash lengthwise (it will give off steam) and remove and discard seeds. Working over a bowl, scrape squash flesh with a fork, loosening and separating strands as you remove it from skin. Toss with spiced butter and cilantro.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Cupcake Project: Ultimate Vanilla Cupcakes

I've always been a chocolate girl.  If I'm in a restaurant or a bakery or pretty much anywhere ordering something sweet, 90% of the time it's going to be chocolate.  Heck, I even order my coffee from Starbucks with chocolate in it.  I'm very dedicated as you can see.

So, I'm sure you're wondering why I made a vanilla cupcake.  Good question.  I don't think I've ever had a good vanilla or yellow cupcake.  They always seem to be a tasteless sponge covered in frosting.  The cupcake becomes just a vehicle to get the frosting to your mouth.  Which I guess is fine, but why can't the cupcake taste good, too?  So, I pretty much set my money on chocolate every time.

These cupcakes are totally different.  They not only have the seeds of an entire vanilla bean in the cake, but also a whole tablespoon of high quality vanilla extract.  Yes, they actually have flavor.  Good flavor.  And there's something about the butter/oil/sour cream mixture that makes the crumb incredibly tender and moist.  Gosh, I'm drooling just thinking about them.

The frosting on the top has another vanilla bean and another teaspoon of vanilla extract, so you basically are just slapping fabulous vanilla taste on top of more vanilla taste.  Which makes a pretty amazing cupcake, considering how...plain it looks.  Chocolate may actually have a run for its money.  I suggest you make some NOW.

Ultimate Vanilla Cupcakes
From Cupcake Project blog

1 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
1¾ cups cake flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
⅓ cup sour cream
¼ cup canola oil
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
⅔ cup whole milk
Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a small bowl, combine sugar and seeds from the vanilla bean.  Using the back of a spoon, move around the bowl and apply pressure to break up any clumps of seeds and to better infuse the vanilla flavor into the sugar. Set aside.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the vanilla bean sugar and mix until well combined.  Add the butter and mix on medium-low speed for three minutes.  You'll end up with a very fine crumb texture.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, oil, and vanilla extract until smooth.  Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.  Slowly add the milk and mix on low speed until just combined.  The batter will be liquidy.

Fill cupcake liners just over ½ full.  Bake for 14 minutes and then test to see if they are done. They are done when a toothpick comes out without wet batter stuck to it.  The cupcakes should appear white with specks of vanilla bean. They should not turn a golden brown.  If they are not done, test again in two minutes.  If they are still not done, test again in another two minutes.
When the cupcakes are done, remove them immediately from the tins and leave them on a cooling rack to cool.  Frost with Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting.

Makes 16 cupcakes

Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

1½ cups powdered sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or the seeds of 2 vanilla beans
1 tablespoon whole milk

Mix together the sugar and butter until they are blended and creamy.  Add the vanilla extract or vanilla bean seeds and milk and continue to beat for another minute.  If desired, add more vanilla extract to taste, or more powdered sugar to make the frosting stiffer.